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Trump wears mask while visiting wounded soldiers, medical workers at Walter Reed hospital

  • July 12, 2020

WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump visited with wounded soldiers and front-line medical workers Saturday while wearing what – for him – is an unusual accessory: a mask.

 “I’ve never been against masks,” the president said, “but I do believe they have a time and a place.”

Trump, who has been criticized by public health officials for not wearing face coverings in public, donned a dark navy blue mask with a gold presidential seal emblazoned on the side during his trip to Walter Reed.

White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and members of the Secret Service also wore masks during the visit that lasted less than an hour.

Trump in recent days has softened his opposition to wearing masks, a subject on which he has been excoriated by public health officials who say he should set a better example. They said too many Trump followers have followed his no-mask lead, contributing to the spread of the deadly virus.

“It’s sad to think of all the infections and deaths that could’ve been avoided if Trump had simply modeled good behavior from the start,” said Chris Lu, the secretary who managed Cabinet business for President Barack Obama.

Lu said, “this is way too little, too late.”

President Donald Trump wears a face mask during a visit to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, on Saturday.

Speaking Thursday with Fox News host Sean Hannity, Trump said, “It’s fine to wear a mask if it makes you feel comfortable.”

Trump added he planned to wear a mask during the Walter Reed visit because “you’re in a hospital setting,” and “I think it’s a very appropriate thing … I have no problem with a mask.”

The Walter Reed website says “visitors are expected to wear a cloth face covering over their nose and mouth upon entering and while moving about the facility or waiting rooms and when not able to maintain 6 feet of social distancing.”

Trump has been known to avoid wearing masks at facilities that required them, such as a Honeywell plant in Arizona he visited in May.

More:The White House has sent conflicting messages on wearing masks and the new coronavirus cases

More:‘Masks are good’: Trump says he’d wear mask in small crowd but questions need for mandatory use

More:President Trump shows up at news conference without a face mask after saying he’d wear one in ‘tight’ crowd

The White House has argued Trump hasn’t had to wear a mask because he is president, and anyone who comes into contact with him is given a COVID-19 test before being allowed near him.

Trump had planned another trip on Saturday, heading to New Hampshire for a political rally in Portsmouth. But the campaign canceled that event Friday, citing fears of bad weather from Tropical Storm Fay – though it wound up being a sunny day in New Hampshire.

A White House statement said Trump traveled to Walter Reed “to visit brave combat wounded service members and their families as well as healthcare staff who have been caring for COVID-19 patients during the pandemic.” Spokesman Judd Deere tweeted that, in speaking with wounded warriors, Trump “listened to their stories, answered their questions, thanked them for their bravery, and told them he loved them.”

Trump ventured to Walter Reed amid renewed attacks on his administration’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic that continues to spread with record numbers of new cases. 

Public health officials have said that virtually every one should wear a mask to protect themselves and others from infections, and that political leaders like Trump should set an example.

Jonathan Reiner, professor of medicine at George Washington University, said Trump should have announced that “‘all Americans should wear a mask when they go out in public.'” Reiner added, “if the only place he’s willing to wear a mask is a hospital, he still doesn’t get it.”

The Walter Reed visit came after Trump’s decision to commute the prison sentence of Roger Stone, the long-time confidant convicted of lying to Congress in order to protect the president’s 2016 campaign from investigations into Russian election interference.

Lawmakers described the move as nothing less than a pay-off to keep Stone quiet about possible wrongdoing by Trump.

“An act of staggering corruption,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. One Republican, Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah, described the commutation as “unprecedented, historic corruption: an American president commutes the sentence of a person convicted by a jury of lying to shield that very president.”

More than 20 U.S. states now require face masks in public. Trump did not wear one during a trip to South Florida on Friday, though Miami-Dade County has mandated wearing masks in public.

Trump and his supporters have described mask demands as unnecessary and intrusive political statements of their own. In late May, Trump made fun of a reporter for wearing a mask at a news conference, accusing him of seeking to be “politically correct.”

Trump and aides have mocked Democratic election opponent Joe Biden for wearing a mask. Biden has said Trump’s derision of masks is nothing less than foolish “macho stuff.”

Biden spokesman Andrew Bates said Trump wasted months “stoking divisions” over masks “and actively discouraging people from taking a very basic step to protect each other.” Biden, meanwhile, “has led by example,” he said.

Trump campaign aides took to social media to promote the masked president politically, tweeting out pictures from the hospital visit.

“Joe Biden is finished,” tweeted campaign senior adviser Jason Miller.

Campaign manager Brad Parscale tweeted the photo with the tagline “#AmericaFirst.”

Democratic strategist Jesse Lehrich said: “Trump finally puts on a mask and his campaign applauds him like he’s a child who just tied his own shoes for the first time. … It would be comical if it weren’t all so tragic.”

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